Fresh off his announcement on Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her supporters were barred from using a government jet for a European junket until the government shutdown is over, President Trump on Friday expanded the ban to any congressional delegation.
On Thursday, Trump ordered that Pelosi’s planned excursion to Brussels and Afghanistan be postponed even as the congresswoman, her staff and others were on their way to the military jet.
The White House explained Pelosi needed to be in Washington to negotiate and end to the shutdown. But Trump’s order came a day after the House speaker essentially disinvited the president to the House for his State of the Union address later this month.
The shutdown began just before Christmas when Democrats refused to approve Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for border security, including a physical barrier.
Pelosi, at one point, snarked that she would offer $1.
The president wrote Thursday: “Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over.
“In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate. I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement.”
Acting OMB Director @RussVought45 sends letter to all Cabinet members that NO “government owned, rented, leased, or chartered aircraft” can transport any Congressional delegation, “without the express written approval of the White House Chief of Staff” during the gov’t shutdown pic.twitter.com/Nr8kc3Lu30
— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) January 18, 2019
On Friday, note was released to heads of departments in the government from acting Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought.
“In light of the current partial government shutdown, the president has asked me to direct the heads of all executive departments and agencies of the administration on new policies in support of Legilsative Branch travel.”
He continued: “Under no circumstances during a government shutdown will any government owned, rented, leased, or chartered aircraft support any congressional delegation, without the express written approval of the White House Chief of Staff. Nor will any funds appropriated to the executive branch be used for any congressional delegation travel expenses, without his express written approval. Departments and agencies shall continue to provide appropriate logistical and security support for such delegations.”
Twitchy noted the letter means “members of Congress will be forced to use commercial flights if they insist on flying anywhere for the duration of the shutdown without permission from Trump’s chief of staff.”
Politico called the president’s letter a “remarkable counter-punch” to Pelosi’s demand that Trump delay or cancel the State of the Union address.
The president has other options to deliver the State of the Union. He could ask for an invitation from the GOP-controlled Senate or do it from the Oval Office.
The Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security dismissed Pelosi’s suggestion that security concerns were a reason to delay the SOTU.